Disposables & Dioxins

Posted 09-29-2011 at 07:44 AM by Britt Schwartz

To be frank, our initial motivation to get started in cloth diapering was purely monetary. At the time I had no idea of the controversy over the chemicals in disposable diapers as well as the potential health risks for my girls.It wasn’t until I started to read more blogs and articles about cloth diapers did I become aware of dioxins. I, not being a scientist, did not immediately know what they are and it can be difficult to find reliable information about controversial topics from biased websites dedicated to both sides of the cause. Because I wanted real answers, I decided to do some research myself. I had a list of questions I wanted answered and was shocked by some of the answers I found!

I wanted to know what exactly dioxins are and the health risk the posed to my family. I then wanted to know if they really were in disposable diapers, and if so, why? I wanted to get a big picture understanding of dioxin and diapers.

Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants. They are mainly formed through manufacturing processes like bleaching pulp and herbicide production. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Dioxins are everywhere in our environment and the greatest risk to our health comes from direct exposure. There is no current research to show if there is a safe amount when it comes to the amount of exposure.

I’ve spent two days researching for this blog and I haven’t been able to find a website that states that dioxins are NOT found in disposable diapers, many researchers quickly point out that our diet is a far greater risk to exposure to dioxin than disposable diapers. They claim that the levels would need to be 100-1,000 times greater per diaper to be of concern. They also point out that dioxins can be found in bleached cloth diapers.

My first thought was I am so glad we use organic unbleached prefolds!

And secondly, if there is no known safe threshold for dioxin exposure, why shouldn’t there be concern over the levels, however minute, in disposable diapers? I’ve not been able to find research that studies the long term effects of low exposure for over two years, since most children are in diapers for that long. This to me would be of great concern, they may only get a little bit of dioxin exposure from each diaper but they are wearing these diaper nearly¬†continuously for years!

While there are not many “studies” done that are showing great risk to our children from dioxin exposure related to diapers, there are plenty that agree that dioxins are found in diapers and if you dig a little deeper you don’t need a rocket scientist (or a mommy blogger) to tell you something isn’t right!

Britt Schwartz is:
Mommy to her daughters, Payton (’09) & Sawyer (’11)
Wife to her best friend, Matt.
Owner of Nelly’s Nappies in Fort Myers, FL.

Filed Under: General

Comments

8 Responses to “Disposables & Dioxins”

  1. magooken on September 29th, 2011 10:05 am


    dioxin is a result of the elemental chlorine bleaching process. that process hasn’t been used in the united states for some time now. please stop spreading misinformation! even diapers that aren’t listed as “chlorine-free” are still not bleached with elemental chlorine. the process can be ECF (elemental chlorine free) or CF (chlorine free). all us pulp mills are ECF. not all chlorine is bad, though. salt has chlorine in it, so i suppose a CF process can’t even have salt involved in the process.

  2. Britt Schwartz on September 29th, 2011 10:09 am


    I understand what you’re saying but studies are showing that dioxins ARE found in disposable diapers, no one is disputing the fact that they are present. My concern isn’t how they got there but if is safe for our children’s bottom!

  3. magooken on September 29th, 2011 10:25 am


    i guess it just doesn’t make logical sense to me. the levels are much higher in food, which is a much more direct exposure. why should we be concerned with extremely low levels in something that touches the skin?

  4. Britt Schwartz on September 29th, 2011 10:56 am


    Dioxins can be absorbed thru your skin and our babies’ bottoms are constantly in a dark, mostly wet area all the time, this breaks down their skin, which makes it easier for things to enter their skin.
    I’m not saying that diapers are the leading exposure risk but if there are dioxins in disposables (and there are) and there is no known safe threshold for dioxin exposure, how do you or I know that prolonged exposure won’t create issues for our children?
    And you’re right, our diet is a HUGE place for exposure and I didn’t know this until I started to do my research from this blog and since reading that, my husband and I are looking into ways to reduce our exposure from their as well.

  5. Catherine R. Hasselbring on September 29th, 2011 2:48 pm


    Isn’t there more than just Dioxins in disposable that we should be concerned about? If were going to talk about the health risks of disposable diapers then there are other thing in it that can’t be denied that are carsegenic. Read this because it’s a very reliable source.

    http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/real-diaper-news/quarterly_article_mullen_diaper-rash-comparing-diaper-choices.htm

  6. Britt Schwartz on September 29th, 2011 6:55 pm


    Catherine – you’re right, there are many things about disposables that should be of concern, dioxins are no where near exclusive and I apologize if that is what you read from my blog. Dioxins, to me are just one of many topics that could be researched and discussed about disposables!

  7. kaleyshae on September 30th, 2011 1:34 pm


    Thank you for this article. I understand the point of views from those who left comments (and agree), but the blog is less than 500 words long and not meant to encompass all the information available. Considering that, I think this was very informative and a good push to get mamas thinkin’!

  8. beaniesmom on October 1st, 2011 8:28 am


    i use cloth, and disposables and it is hard to weigh all the health risks etc., that being said, the blog also stated there are dioxins in CLOTH diapers that are bleached. So, I sway toward magooken saying concern about food seems greater in the long run. Unless one can afford to buy unbleached organic diapers, it seems it cannot be avoided in diapers (unfortunately!)

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